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i Editor's Letter: Blooming banks!



I managed to sneak out of the office yesterday and spend a couple of hours at the Hampton Court Flower Show. The Chelsea Flower Show may be a showpiece of British horticultural excellence, but Hampton Court is really good fun — a people's show.

It has an even grander, more historic setting than Chelsea, but it has the atmosphere of a country fete — perhaps because it's held in summer and everyone always seems to be in holiday mood.

You can purchase almost anything your heart desires for the garden, whether your tastes run to African thatched huts, South American hammocks, Chinese pots, Moroccan lanterns, or French vintage-style twiddly bits and pieces.

Traders at Hampton Court like cash, not credit, and there is usually a mobile bank on site, with a couple of cash machines. Yesterday, the two cash machines were out of order, and as you can imagine, the queue for cash was substantial.

I had to wait 20 minutes to be served, and then was told I could only have more than £50 if I had ID. Did I have my passport? Oddly enough, my passport is not the first thing I think of when I'm en route to a flower show. So no, I didn't.

I managed to persuade the teller I was a solvent member of society, and he gave me my money, telling me that even though the cash machines were out of order, and we had all been queueing for ages, he was still going to make a charge for the transaction.

Blooming banks! There we all were, having a lovely time, and they come along and spoil it all with their money-grabbing routines. Hang on, that has a familiar ring to it.

Stefano Hatfield is away

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